Further Saga of ‘The Strike’
Today, the 26th of April is the last day of the teachers’ strike…ending three weeks of Polish kids, K-12, not going to school.
“What!? Surely you are putting us on!!” you say.
We couldn’t be so lucky 🙁 I’ll give it to you in a nutshell.
It all started with following orders.
We call the ruling party leader, a puppet master in all but name, The Duck. His party marches after him quacking like dutiful ducklings — waddling backward in the case of education, to the good ol’ days. To make a bad situation worse, the changes were unprepared, without any negotiation from the educators themselves.
Nothing unusual in that part, it seems genetically inherited in our part of the world, if not a duck, then a hungry bird of prey.
Overlooked, forced to dismantle the advances of the previous government, the teachers stared at each other in disbelief.
Two years later, the expected chaos — the minister laid an egg.
Thousands of schools closed (100% in our town) and we made a march of our own.
I know, it is hard to believe a national government would leave the entire country’s children without school.
Two weeks before Easter this travesty began, then the holiday week. The millions of children were enjoying it, at least. The parents — not so much. They had to juggle childcare for their younger offspring or take holiday time.
“So. What were the consequences?” you ask.
The high school seniors were left wondering if they would be eligible for graduation or the final exams.
Really. The 8th graders barely got their exams in.
Meanwhile, in Italy, at even the mention that teachers would halt their work, the government worked all night to come to an agreement and prevented a walkout altogether.
Here, geographical miles north and decades ‘south’ in most else, rather than negotiate, the national government passed a law to force the school principal to blanket pass the seniors. Or, if need be, the village authority — a mayor, of sorts.
Do you get the idea?
Not all government ‘quackership’ is created equal. Americans feel this keenly. We poor Polish teachers have found that out…the hard way.
I discovered that teachers working for 30 plus years still do not know how biology textbooks are prepared or by whom. Any attempts of the Polish language teachers to explain why our Nobel prize-winning poet, Wislawa Szymborska, should be kept in the curriculum, fell on deaf ears. Only when the journalists took up the story did the changes happen.
As an American, I teach in the IB program and avoid the national program pitfalls, but my heart goes out to the colleagues who must live and work under the antagonism of its own educational leadership, more concerned with politics than progress.
My salary is the same as theirs though.
These are killing salaries rampant in not just our field. My daughter pays 1100 zloties for a 1 bedroom flat per month, nothing fancy at all. Our first-year teachers have a take-home salary of 1800 zloties per month, and that is not in the capital where housing is even more expensive. Most other costs are now the same as in western Europe.
Very simply put. You can’t live without a second job or a rich spouse, which seems to be what the government assumes all teachers have.
“What’s your plan?” you may ask.
The union leadership has suspended the strike. We keep our unity that way and save our stressed-out souls, not to mention salaries made poorer by three weeks of unpaid strike.
So we step back into the classroom.
We will get through the semester, work, and wait.
September is coming.
The ministry of education (lack of capitalization intended) has time. Now those ‘no time/money/etc’ excuses will not work.
September is coming.
The backward, under-funded system has to give way.
Paying rent is not optional for rookie teachers. Teachers need bearable salaries.
Unless you are a duck and live in a nest.
A program is needed that will have our youth equipped for the modern world — all of them, not just the privileged with private education.
September is coming.
Hold your thumbs for us. (The Polish equivalent of crossing fingers).